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Johnakin v. Berringer

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

September 30, 2019



          PETRESE B. TUCKER, J.

         Pro se Plaintiff William Johnakin, a pretrial detainee currently confined at Berks County Prison, has filed a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging constitutional claims. He has also filed a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, Because it appears that Johnakin is unable to afford to pay the filing fee, the Court will grant him leave to proceed in forma pauperis. For the following reasons, certain claims in the Complaint will be dismissed with prejudice, and other claims will be dismissed without prejudice. Johnakin will also be granted leave to file an amended complaint to attempt to cure the defects noted by the Court concerning the claims dismissed without prejudice.

         I. FACTS

         Johnakin alleges that his probation officer, Defendant Stuart Berringer, revoked his parole because he refused to change his health care provider. (ECF No. 2 at 6.)[1] Johnakin, who asserts he is HIV positive and who had employer provided health care, was directed by Berringer to enroll in a counseling program not covered by his health care plan. (Id.) Johnakin asserts he could not afford to pay for the counseling out of pocket and Berringer threatened to reincarcerate him if he did not comply with his counseling obligation. (Id.) Johnakin characterizes these events as Berringer demanding that he drop his employer provided health care plan, which would have resulted in his not being able to receive treatment for his HIV status since December 2018. (Id.)

         Later in his Complaint, Johnakin acknowledges that a drug test administered by Berringer was positive for cocaine. (Id. at 10.) That test result was the reason Berringer directed that he get counseling. He asserts that when he arrived at the counseling center he learned it did not accept his insurance. (Id.) He showed Berringer receipts and letters from the counseling center, and Berringer allegedly told him "to do what [he had] to do and change health care because if not he was going to violate me for not complying and lock me up again," (Id.) Johnakin alleges that he needed refills for his prescriptions and the only way to get it "would be to sneak to N.Y.C. and see my doctor and I couldn't cause [sic] that itself is a violation and would put me back in jail." (Id. at 11.) He also asserts that on June 27, 2019 he qualified for food stamps and Medicaid, but still had to pay for counseling out of pocket. (Id. at 12.) Berringer revoked Johnakin's parole on June 28, 2019, allegedly because of new charges being filed against him and because of a failed drug test. (Id.)

         A review of public records shows that Johnakin has been confined at the Berks County Prison since June 28, 2019. See Commonwealth v. Johnakin, CP-06-CR-322-2018. He was previously charged with retail theft in 2017, and entered a plea of guilty on July 5, 2018. He was sentenced on the same day to a term of 178 days to 23 months incarceration. (Id.) The state court docket notes that a furlough order and work release agreement were entered on September 21, 2018. A bench warrant was issued on July 3, 2019, presumably due to the failed drug test or new charges being filed. Johnakin states in his Complaint that he is a pretrial detainee. (Id. at 5.)

         In addition to Berringer, Johnakin has sued Berks County Adult Probation and Parole ("BCAPP") on the ground that it is responsible for giving its parole officers the power to tell probationers that they must change their health care plans. (Id. at 6-7.) He asserts that BCAPP is not a medical facility and has no medical training and should not be allowed to decide about a probationer's health care. (Id. at 7.) Johnakin has also named Berks County and the City of Reading on the ground that they are responsible for BCAPP. (Id. at 7-8.). Finally, Johnakin has named the Berks County Jail System and PrimeCare Medical, the medical provider at the Jail, because they knew when he was committed that he had not had any medication in six months, did nothing to get him his HIV medication, and failed to test or analyze his medical condition. (Id. at 8.) He also claims that he has lost 40 pounds since his incarceration, has developed dark skin blotches, and fears he will develop shingles due to his compromised immune system. (Id. at 12.) All Defendants are sued in the official and individual capacities. (Id. at 3-5.)


         The Court will grant Johnakin leave to proceed in forma pauperis because it appears that he is incapable of paying the fees to commence this civil action.[2] Accordingly, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) requires the Court to dismiss the Complaint if, among other things, it fails to state a claim, Whether a complaint fails to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), see Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999), which requires the Court to determine whether the complaint contains "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotations omitted). Conclusory allegations do not suffice. Id. As Johnakin is proceeding pro se, the Court construes his allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).

         Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a complaint to contain "a short a plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." A district court may sua sponte dismiss a complaint that does not comply with Rule 8 if "the complaint is so confused, ambiguous, vague, or otherwise unintelligible that its true substance, if any, is well disguised." Simmons v. Abruzzo, 49 F.3d 83, 86 (2d Cir. 1995) (quotations omitted). This Court has noted that Rule 8 "requires that pleadings provide enough information to put a defendant on sufficient notice to prepare their defense and also ensure that the Court is sufficiently informed to determine the issue." Fabian v. St. Mary's Med. O., No. Civ. A. 16-4741, 2017 WL 3494219, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 11, 2017) (quotations omitted).


         Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code provides in part:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

42 U.S.C. § 1983, "To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of ...

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